I share custody of my children from a previous relationship. The year before I started writing The Concrete, their mother moved to the southeast side of Grand Rapids. That same year, two people I know personally were shot on the southeast side. The following year, a teenager ran down the street firing a pistol while my son was playing in the front yard. The year I was wrapping up revisions, someone was murdered two doors down from where my children lived. As a father you worry; as a writer you brood.
In the early drafts of The Concrete, the southeast side served as a backdrop, or a mural for the story. It evolved into a character, a villain, and I think in many ways the most dangerous kind of villain, a villain with no face, an oppressor, an enemy the characters in this novel have to overcome but cannot see.
Grand Rapids is a beautiful city, with a beautiful waterfront. The southeast side is not representative of the city as a whole. The Concrete shows place, I think, on a micro-level—it is a portrait of a neighborhood within a city. I hope readers are able to differentiate. I hope Grand Rapids natives are made more aware of the violence and bleak circumstances lurking about in the belly of the city.